'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Interview: Author/Illustrator Sue deGennaro

KBR is thrilled to welcome author and illustrator Sue deGennaro with this wonderful peek into her astonishing working life. Enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about you.
I was born in Adelaide. I have done a degree in film, lived on an atoll on the equator for two years teaching English and art. I dropped out of Art School and then tried my hand at contemporary dance, yes I can hear you sigh… as it turned out I was crap at remembering any more than three steps at a time.

I moved to Sydney and for the next 10 years I trained as an aerialist/ performance artist. My career ventured to the circus world finishing in an all girl flying trapeze troupe... Exciting, hey?

I now live in Brunswick Melbourne with my two children, but actually just found out today that the house we are living in is to be sold, so who knows where we will end up. A caravan is looking very attractive.

How long have you been illustrating? 
Five years, non-stop.

What art medium(s) to do you work in?
Anything and everything, biro, texta, gouache, water colour, liquid acrylics, pencil, collage. 

What style would you call your work?
Shabby. But other people refer to it as contemporary, quirky or whimsical.

Why do you illustrate?
Because I love seeing what comes out of me. Whenever I start a book, I can't ever see how I will pull it off. It’s the process I think I'm addicted to, plod away at something for eight months and by the end there will be something to show for your efforts.

Can you remember the first drawings you ever felt really proud of?
I remember my dad drew me a horse for a project in primary school, and I trace it and coloured it in. it was the first time I realized that maybe I too might be able to draw.

In high school I was part of the top twenty students in year 12 art. I knew I could draw, I just didn’t know what I wanted to draw. Even though it took thirteen years to return to drawing, I believe all the experience I gained in that time gave me all the material and vision that I now use as an illustrator

What do you love most about illustrating books for children?
I love the breadth that is available, I love that children scour pages delighting in detail; I love placing things in the story, little objects, that have their own story. Children are so open; they are so up for any thing; they don’t hold the same prejudices as adults.

What have been the greatest obstacles on your creative journey?
Colour. It drives me crazy, it terrifies me. I wish all my books could just be monotone, but not so. So I battle with colour daily, trying to get all the colours to sit together on one page all together and sing. Most first attempts are a bit like visual vomit, but that’s why the gods invented colour roughs.

What advice would you have on illustrating for a living?
It helps if you like public speaking; in fact that’s what pays my rent. Lots of talking in schools and libraries. People love to know your process. I also do a lot of teaching. Illustrating for a living means having your fingers in lots of pies. It takes me such a long time to complete a book. The advance alone would mean that the kids and I would be eating baked bean toasties for the year!

Name five of your fave children's books of all time:
1. The Surprise by Sylvia van Omen
2. The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth/Wolf Erlbruch
3. Brian Banana Duck Sunshine Yellow by Chris McKimmie
4. Herbert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent by Lauren Child
5. The Library Lion by Michelle Knusden/Kevin Hawkes

Which of your books is your favourite, and why? 
The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog. I wrote this before I even got my first picture book contract. I made up a dummy of the pros and cons when applying for a mentorship with the ASA. I received the mentorship and all these years later I've had the great fortune to have it published. I’m one very lucky girl.

If you couldn't be an artist/illustrator, what would you be?
A scientist. I am constantly listening to ‘All in the Mind’ and ‘The Science Show’ on Radio National, pretending they are all my colleagues and we are all in a lecture theatre together.

Describe yourself in five words. 

What's next for Sue deGennaro? 
Moving house!!! Oh, and a book with Penguin.

Learn more about Sue right here.